ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Horse slaughterhouses in New Mexico and Missouri were preparing to open as early as Monday after a temporary order blocking a return to domestic equine slaughter expired without a ruling from a federal judge.
Attorneys for the Humane Society of the United States and other groups suing the Department of Agriculture over its permitting procedures for the plants filed a motion Friday seeking an extension of the restraining order.
But Blair Dunn, who represents Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, N.M., and Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, Mo., said he would fight any further attempts to keep the plants closed.
"I am shocked that she didn't do anything," Dunn said of the lack of action by presiding U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo. "And the fact that the HSUS is requesting a motion to extend leads me to believe they don't think she is going to issue a ruling today either."
Dunn said he had calls into the Department of Justice, which represents the Department of Agriculture, to get inspectors dispatched to the plants.
"Rains Natural Meat in Missouri will be ready to go on Monday," he said. "If nothing happens today or Monday, we expect USDA will honor its obligations and (be) at the company on Monday morning."
He said Valley Meat Co. also was making calls to the USDA office in Dallas to start making plans to open.
An Iowa plant that had also planned to slaughter horses has converted to beef because of the litigation.
The issue has divided horse rescue and animal welfare groups, ranchers, politicians and Indian tribes about what is the most humane way to deal with the country's horse overpopulation and what rescue groups have said are a rising number of neglected and starving horses as the West deals with persistent drought.
The plants would become the first horse slaughterhouse to operate in the country since Congress banned the practice by eliminating funding for inspections at the plants in 2006. It restored that funding in 2011, but the USDA did not approve the first permits for horse slaughter plants until this summer.
The companies want to ship horse meat to countries where it is consumed by humans or as animal feed.